Rockaway Outdoors/Tales From The Wheel House
Goodbye stripers, hello tautog....... December 15 marked the official end to the New York State Striped Bass season. The fall run was quite a bit off in comparison to years gone by.
Several factors were to blame, but two stood out in my mind. The baitfish really never seemed to appear in numbers enough to keep big fish close to shore and nor'easter winds plagued us relentlessly.
Menhaden, or as what we locals refer to as bunker, didn't hold up in the bay much after Election Day. Their departure to some extent, sealed our fate. Sure, there were plenty of ''peanut'' bunker but they really didn't contribute to the appearance of big fish in any numbers.
However, the peanut bunker do seem to be thriving, and with any luck on our part, will mature and be back next spring. The herring, oy vey!, they just weren't in their usual haunts. Anyone familiar with the current fisheries in our area realizes that the herring, as well as the Menhaden stocks are way down. These baitfish greatly impact our local fishing. Its sad to see their current state of decline.
Stripers were mostly school-size fish, 15 pounds and under. There were some big fish being caught, although once again with no consistency. Some of the jig boats out of Sheepshead Bay had some real good days, and to the delight of boat and surf anglers, the big blues hung around.
Many of the fishermen I spoke to mirrored my thoughts. I think the ''biggest'' surprise of the fall was the Bluefin Tuna up on the beaches off Rockaway and in the waters in and around Ambrose Channel.
I first spotted them about a month ago while blackfishing by the wrecks near Ambrose Light. Local sporties, and charter boats out of Gateway Marina, put some time in pursuing them, and one tuna around, 90 pounds or so was caught and released. On Friday of last week, the Jersey boats were out looking for them; once again I spotted them and radioed a few boats trying to put them on the meat.
It was no secret to any one out there. Let's face it; 100 pounds plus Tuna crashing bait on the surface don't go unnoticed.
Well getting back to the local scene, birds are up working schools of fish off of Breezy Point and down the beach toward Fort Tilden almost every day. No doubt bass are still around, and will continue to be seen as they migrate down the beach.
OK, back to the "togs" or blackfish. The surface water temperatures as of today were in the mid-to-low 40's, depending on where you were and how deep. I have been catching fairly consistently in 50-60' of water, but the reality is that the better catches are in the deeper waters.
Deeper waters like 17 fathoms and the waters north of 17 have been real good, with fish being bigger than the ones inshore. Baits being used are the usual traditional green crabs and white crabs, with the whites having a bit of an edge.
Mixed in with the tog are some ling, and unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of dogfish. As of this writing, I haven't seen or caught any mackerel or whiting, but who knows what tomorrow may bring.
Until next time, tight lines. To all our readers, happy holidays!